UNC board’s meeting minutes shed little light on chancellor raises

Redacted minutes of a controversial UNC Board of Governors’ closed session reveal little about the board’s approval of substantial raises for chancellors in October.

The minutes of the Oct. 30 meeting were released Wednesday by university officials following a public records request from The News & Observer. The three-page document, meant to describe the board’s actions during a nearly three-hour private session, contains more blank space than text.

The minutes offer no insight into the substance of the board’s discussion or the rationale for the raises, which ranged from 8 percent to 19 percent for the leaders of a dozen public university campuses.

Board leaders have said the raises were a one-time attempt to lift salaries to a more competitive level following a consultant’s study that suggested the chancellors were below market. Faculty and staff have had little raises to speak of since the recession, and some faculty groups have taken a stand against higher pay for top administrators.

The closed-session vote was criticized by lawyers for media organizations, who maintain the approval should have been conducted in public in compliance with the state’s open meetings laws. The closed session also attracted concern by legislators, who questioned board officers about it at a legislative oversight meeting in November. Last week, the board received a tutorial on the requirements of state law on open meetings.

The Oct. 30 minutes show that G.A. Sywassink, chair of the board’s personnel committee, moved that the board approve chancellors’ raises and authorize UNC President Tom Ross to implement them. The minutes are then blank for about one-third of a page, followed by a few sentences describing a motion by another board member, Henry Hinton, to approve raises and authorize Ross to activate them. It’s unclear exactly how the two motions differed.

“A vote was taken by members,” the minutes said. “There were 16 in favor, 13 opposed. The motion carried.”

There is no breakdown of how individual board members voted. Board Chairman Lou Bissette has said there was no roll call, only a show of hands.

Other items were discussed during the closed session, according to the minutes. The university’s general counsel, Tom Shanahan, updated the board on three legal items, including an admissions lawsuit against UNC-Chapel Hill. The board also discussed the appointment of an interim leader to fill in after the departure of Ross in January and before the arrival of Margaret Spellings in March. Finally, the board approved up to $25,000 in relocation expenses for Ross, who so far has incurred $13,881 in moving expenses, according to a spokeswoman.

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill